Forgotten Grounds: The Imps and Sealand Road, Chester

Under Colin Murphy City were back in Division Three after a two-year absence for what turned to be the last meeting of the two clubs at Sealand Road in a Football League match. This took place in May 1982 with Chester, who had a disastrous season, already relegated while City after a poor first half of the season had reached third place and were endeavouring to stay there. It was also my third and last visit to the ground where I was part of the lowest crowd there for a meeting with Lincoln in a league match, just 1,371 being present. My remaining impression of the ground being that despite the new main stand it was rather the worse for wear.

Despite falling behind to Chester’s first goal in five games City quickly equalised through Glenn Cockerill before a late penalty from George Shipley secured a 2-1 win to move City up to second place. The Imps were eventually beaten to the third promotion place by Fulham who had won at Sealand Road three days before, and Chester played a further part in City’s fortunes when they lost at home to Carlisle in the final match of the season allowing the Cumbrians to also overtake the Imps.

Although the two clubs’ paths then diverged in the league, they met at Sealand Road again the following season in the semi-final of the then sponsor-free Football League Trophy. This saw the lowest ever attendance for a meeting with Lincoln City as just 1,058 turned out to see the Imps go through to a meeting with Millwall in the final after winning 3-1 in extra time. The goals came from Trevor Peake, Phil Turner, and one from Glenn Cockerill which made him only the second City player to score in more than one game at the ground. The game also featured the only start in the side among the three appearances made by non-contract striker Errington Kelly.

In 1983 the club became Chester City and survived re-election to the league after finishing in last place the following year. They revived to finish second in Division Four in 1986 and so missed playing City who were in the process of being relegated to that division at the same time. The two clubs met for the last time at Sealand Road in January 1987, in the First Round of what was now known as the Freight Rover Trophy. Another sub-1,500 crowd saw the home side win the tie on penalties after Imps substitute Tony Simmons had equalised the score at 1-1 in extra time. The game marked the first game back for John McGinley following his return from a brief spell with Rotherham.

Chester by now were in some financial difficulty and in order to raise money it had been proposed that the area behind the Kop occupied by a training pitch should be sold for development, but planning permission was refused unless a new access road costing £2.8 million could be provided. Consequently, this was not proceeded with and in 1986 Chester were faced with a winding up order over unpaid taxes.

By then Sealand Road was in a sorry state, with an overgrown Kop fenced off and a major blow was suffered in August 1989, when it was announced the club had been refused a safety certificate for its away standing areas. This reduced the capacity of The Stadium to below 6,000. Developers still interested in the area behind the Kop took control of the club but there was no further progress on this or other schemes until the following March, when an Edinburgh-based consortium took the club over and announced its intention to immediately redevelop the ground for use as a supermarket, with games to take place elsewhere until a new stadium was completed. After approaching several clubs in and out of the League an agreement was reached to share Macclesfield Town’s Moss Rose ground.

The final Football League match at Sealand Road was a 2–0 home win over Rotherham United on 28 April 1990 in front of a crowd of 3,827.

Lincoln City played Chester once at Macclesfield in a League Cup tie in August 1991 before the club returned to their home city at the newly-built Deva Stadium in August 1992 and that was the venue for the meetings between the two clubs in the 1990s and 2000s. They played there until Chester City went out of business in March 2010, A new club, Chester FC, was formed almost immediately, playing at the Deva Stadium and hosting City four times in the National League.

The Sealand Road stadium remained in place for nearly three years after Chester moved out in 1990, much to the frustration of supporters who were forced to travel across Cheshire to watch home games at Macclesfield. Unfortunately, the ground was allowed to fall into a state of disrepair, with grass growing to a great height. It was finally demolished in 1993 with the roof of the 1979-built main stand sold to Port Vale for £10,000 to be used as a roof for their away enclosure. The site now houses the Greyhound Retail Park.

 

 

Lincoln City played a total of 31 games at Sealand Road with a fairly poor record of seven wins, six draws and eighteen defeats. Goals scored totalled 37, with as many as three goals in a match only being achieved on three occasions. The ground saw a number of heavy defeats, including 7-3, 6-0, and 5-1 twice, these contributing to a total of 70 goals conceded. A clean sheet was kept only four times, three of these coming in three of the few wins recorded.

City’s goals at the ground were scored by 32 different players, with Johnny Campbell top of the list with three, all scored in separate matches. The only other player to score in more than one match was Glenn Cockerill, and the only player to score more than once in a game was Barry Hutchinson.

PHOTO CREDITS

‘Popular side looking towards Sealand End’,  ‘The Kop’, ‘Old Main Stand’ and ‘Sealand End’ – all from www.footballgroundguide.com

‘Popular side’ – from www.cheshire-live.co.uk

‘New Main Stand’ – from Pinterest

‘Kop after closure’ – from Twitter

‘Greyhound retail park’ from www.chesterstandard.co.uk

‘Hamil End at Port Vale’ from www.onevalefan.co.uk

5 Comments

  1. Really enjoyed this article Gary. All football ground histories/photos/stats floats my particular boat. More please!

  2. It’s been pointed out to me that although the goal in City’s first ever game at Sealand Road in 1931 was originally credited to Allan Hall it’s since emerged that it was actually scored by George Whyte.

  3. Brillant stuff, fascinating article about my adopted home club, I never realised Chester’s first two grounds were both within half a mile of where I now live. Faulkner Street is often described as Chester’s Notting Hill and it might now be very different to the present day ‘hipster central’ if the football club had remained.

    I made 2 visits to Sealand Road, both in Div 3 – the late season 1-0 loss in 76-77 was notable for the number of Div 1 managers and scouts in the very thin crowd, Tony Book was sat behind me. Not sure if a teenage Ian Rush was playing, certainly they were viewing a Chester player and not one of the Imps despite the youngsters being given an outing. That main stand was an odd thing.

    Then in the late 2-1 win in 1982 which sustained the promotion push which finally foundered at Fulham, a squeaky win against a poor, young relegated Chester side but the result was the thing, half the crowd must have been Imps supporters on the open terrace behind the goal.

    The attendances at both those games highlighted the problem Chester have always had, kids are brought up supporting Merseyside or Manchester clubs, not their home club.

  4. Thanks.
    Ian Rush would only have been 15 at the time of that 1976/77 match – he didn’t make his first team debut until the end of 1978. Maybe Tony Book was there just to see his old pal Alan Oakes!

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